In Praise of Boring Ink

Pen. Paper. Ink. These three things come together to form the experience of writing with a fountain pen. While I’ve made my pen and paper preferences well known on this blog, I haven’t written much about ink, and the reason I haven’t written much about ink is because all the inks I love are boring.

Sure, I dabble in inks like any other Diamine Oxblooded fountain pen addict. I sip and I sample, and I always toss a few more ink vials into the shopping cart because I’ve already qualified for free shipping so why not. I’ve swum the shimmery seas and had whirlwind romances with sheen monsters. But I always come back to the same few boring, boring inks.

A few months ago, Anthony at UK Fountain Pens wrote about picking ten “desert island” inks out of his collection, and at the time I commented that I didn’t think I even owned ten bottles of ink. That statement is still true. I may have a smaller collection than most, but if I ever ended up like Robinson Crusoe and had to hope for some ink to wash up on shore, I’d hope for some bottles of these:

  • a blue-black (my most fav is Pilot Blue-Black)
  • Sheaffer Permanent Skrip Blue-Black (gotta have a water-resistant ink on an island!)
  • Waterman Inspired Blue (just as well-behaved, pretty, and red-sheeny as Kon-peki — at a third of the price)

No one’s gushing over these inks on Instagram. They’re not getting reviewed on the same exact day by all the top pen bloggers. They’ve all been around for a while — in the case of Sheaffer Skrip Blue-Black, a several-decades-long kind of while. Yet they’re still here, working quietly, effectively, in that boring way. Without them, all the other (shimmery, sheeny) inks wouldn’t feel as special.

Perhaps you’d like to share your favorite “boring” ink?

29 thoughts on “In Praise of Boring Ink

  1. independentclause January 24, 2018 / 5:26 am

    I own 3.5 bottles of ink: brown, black, oxblood (uh-huh), and an experimental brown/black mix in an old rosemary spice jar. I definitely need a blue black. Maybe also a dark green and purple, but this way madness lies. I am not an artist, but a writer.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Jay January 24, 2018 / 6:10 am

      Great read 🙂 I only own two bottles of ink: Iroshizuku Kon-Peki and Diamine Ancient Copper. However, I own about 20 different sample vials of ink to try out various different kinds; most recently iron gall inks (which should fare well on a desert island!). I’m not an artist either, but enjoy the thrill of writing a pen dry and deciding what ink it will be filled with next – like “writing” the story of a pen on its journey through paper. I can flip back in time and see different inks, the colours on the page bringing back memories of what was going on in my life, providing literal and figurative colour to the words.

      Liked by 3 people

    • The Economical Penster January 24, 2018 / 7:45 am

      Pilot Blue-Black is my favorite because you can buy a comically enormous bottle of it, something like 350ml, and while my heart thinks I’ll use up all that ink no problem, my brain knows I’ll die before that bottle ends up empty.

      I somehow ended up with an experimental mix of my own due to ink residues left in a pen: Inspired Blue with a smidge of Pilot Blue-Black… and it was AMAZING. I keep meaning to try to re-create that happy accident.

      I’m no artist either, and that probably explains this post.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. SallyGW January 24, 2018 / 5:58 am

    Sheaffer black is still my favorite, has been for many years – I don’t like wimpy black inks, and Sheaffer beats most I’ve tried. Among the more colorful ones, Levenger amethyst, Private Reserve blues and Waterman greens. I’ve got a lot of bottles of ink, and samples, but most of those are sitting, nicely arranged on spice racks, on my office shelf and at home and not getting as much use.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Economical Penster January 24, 2018 / 7:47 am

      I must admit I’ve never tried Sheaffer Black. I really ought to, as I’ve been looking for a go-to black for a while now. Do you prefer the vintage Sheaffer Black or the modern kind?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Anthony January 24, 2018 / 6:23 am

    This post isn’t really aimed at me, I know (since I wrote the Desert Island Inks post!) but I always have a wet, reliable, non-smudgy, non-sheeny blue-black inked – like Iroshizuku Tsuki-Yo. And very often a mid to bright blue, too – like Edelstein Topaz. I agree that the Instagram sheen-frenzy is getting a bit out of control…

    Liked by 4 people

      • The Economical Penster January 24, 2018 / 7:53 am

        Days and nights filled with writing. Pure bliss. But then: creeping madness. Imagine the sheen you’re missing out on Instagram. All work and no play makes these some dull inks. A volleyball with an inky face smeared on it.

        Liked by 3 people

  4. Chip January 24, 2018 / 7:50 am

    Skrip Red is my go-to basic red – very well-behaved, easy to clean, inexpensive. Like you, for carts I also like Pilot Blue-Black. I also like Diamine Chocolate Brown.

    For basic, solid, inexpensive blacks Lamy is a good choice too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Economical Penster January 24, 2018 / 7:55 am

      I picked up some Lamy Blue-Black — what can I say, I’m an addict — and I’m liking it so far. I’ve tried Lamy Dark Lilac and Petrol before Black, which is all kinds of ridiculous now that I think of it.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Paul Godden January 24, 2018 / 7:56 am

    Yes! Loved this post! I’m boring too!!

    I too have less than ten bottles in my collection…

    My favourite ink? Sailor Jentle Blue.

    The one I mostly use? Sailor Kiwa Guro Nano (Ultra) Black, because I can write a letter in a nice, deep black, and address it with the same waterproof ink and it all matches.

    The ink I use for stand-out comments/grading student work? Sailor Irori Red.

    I also have a bottle of Sailor Sky High Blue, that I play with occasionally. I have some J. Herbin Vert Pre (green), and J. Herbin 1670 Rouge Hematite (a badly-behaved red, that I refuse to ever put in another pen). There’s some J. Herbin Perle Noire (black), that I mostly don’t use, because it’s not waterproof, so I don’t like to use it for addressing envelopes; the same go’s for a bottle of Cross black. And lastly, a bottle of Noodler’s Golden Brown, because I like to use it on cream-colored notebook paper.

    There are some Platinum cartridges and the like kicking about, mostly they came with pens, but like you, I still love what I use, even if I don’t even have ten bottles of ink in my collection.

    But, I must say, after the amazing Purple Posts over on Fountain Pen Follies…

    I have been thinking of expanding… just a little.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The Economical Penster January 26, 2018 / 12:43 am

      I played with Diamine Eclipse a bit before I left for Europe, and it’s a dark purple-black that I found compelling. I guess I really love those (colorname)-black combinations.

      Sailor inks intrigue me, but I’ve never tried any! I don’t know how I’ve managed to avoid it. Jentle Apricot’s been on my to-sample list for months now.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Paul Godden January 26, 2018 / 5:30 am

        I know so many people that love the apricot. I’ve just found Sailor’s inks to be great colors, and extremely well-behaved in terms of cleaning, and leaving in your pens for a while. So, quite unintentionally, I seem to have a few bottles… when I looked in my bottom desk drawer, it came as quite a surprise to see so many of those Sailor labels really.


  6. annemony January 24, 2018 / 9:53 am

    Definitely my go-to boring is my Lamy Black, especially for doodle drawing!
    But I’ve taken a liking to other dark inks like lamy petrol and private reserve’s black magic blue for doodles on occasion ^_^

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Sue Anderson January 24, 2018 / 9:53 am

    I have a lot of ink, but the ones I use most are Iroshizuku Kon-Peki and Diamine Red Dragon. I guess I got carried away…

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Julie Paradise January 24, 2018 / 1:07 pm

    Although these are not my _absolute favourite_ inks (that would be something shimmery, less “reasonable”) but definitely the most used and solidly appreciated are J. Herbin Perle noire and Pelikan 4001 Blue-Black, which here in Germany costs only ca. 4 € for 30 ml and is quite standard. I do empty a glass of each of these about once a year.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Laura January 25, 2018 / 8:34 pm

    Waterman Serenity Blue and Pelikan Brilliant Black (used to be Perle Noire). I could use either one of those as my only ink. I do resist calling them “boring,” though. I prefer “reliable,” or “without drama” or “stalwart.” 😁 However, I’ve been working on a post myself about daring to be boring with pens, believe it or not. Further proof that great minds think alike. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Economical Penster January 26, 2018 / 12:24 am

      My use of “boring” is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as I’m commenting on the fact that these aren’t the sexy Instagram inks of the moment.

      I’m looking forward to your post. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Laura January 26, 2018 / 5:49 am

        No, I know! I’m just irked a little by it, when people disparage good solid inks. Defensive. 😁 But also 🙄 I guess it depends what a person is writing, though—I’m writing “boring” work stuff often anyway. 😁


  10. Shubhranshu January 26, 2018 / 5:05 am

    Blue black, black , any very dark blue are consistent ink colours for me while I flirt with other colours which change all the time…. Blue-black and black don’t . Recently the Iron Gall inks are a fascination … Here again mainly because they darken over time and have permanent qualities …


  11. svanoort January 26, 2018 / 6:16 pm

    Color me in the same camp. Pilot Blue-Black still delights me when I use it, and it’s what goes in most of my pens. Sure, I’ll occasionally dabble in flashier inks (that’s what samples are for), but for everyday use I want something well-behaved, enjoyable to look at, and water-resistant; this checks all the boxes and is shockingly cheap to boot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Economical Penster January 30, 2018 / 2:09 am

      Pilot Blue-Black fans unite! It’s the 350ml bottle that gets me every time. And the red sheen. And the price. And, and, and…


  12. Fizix January 29, 2018 / 7:24 am

    I have 16 bottles of ink pelikan Torquoise, parker red (cherry red) and green are among my favourite. ..Most part of my life i thought i was silly loving inks and pens until as a grown up I found that if it makes me happy its worth it also the reassurance of many people who share the same passion

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Torrilin February 11, 2018 / 4:40 pm

    As someone who mostly does art… my most used ink is Platinum Carbon Black. If you’re using fountain pens for art you probably have a much loved bottle of “boring” ink that you can’t live without.

    The bright colors are fun too, but those kind of scream for a brush or a really fat nib most of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Jon Rutherford February 21, 2018 / 5:42 pm

    Really liked this post. As long as ink is really black and doesn’t destroy my pens, it’s fine with me. But I guess my all-’round favorite, at least now, is J. Herbin Perle noire. It seems to flow more dependably than some I’ve used, is fairly reasonably priced, and is…well, black. And yes, I am afficionado of things boring, too. Boredom makes life tolerable — sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Sharon A. April 16, 2018 / 12:04 pm

    When I started out using fountain pens I just used Waterman inks. That’s all they had at the store. I went through several bottles of Florida Blue and Havana Brown. And they’re so still great inks today. Lately I’ve been enjoying Inspired Blue and Tender Purple.

    Liked by 1 person

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